Every day, spirits makers offer new twists on flavor.
From herbal to spicy, fruity to tart, flavoring alcohol has a long history, going back to the healing elixirs of monks, doctors, and other tonic-toting specialists. Today, bartenders have jumped on the band wagon as well, infusing their own spirits in-house to create one-of-a-kind bottlings that reflect their exact whims and specifications, as well as lend themselves to mixing utterly original cocktails.
If you are feeling creative in the chill of winter, treat yourself or your spirits-loving friends to something truly personal. While it may seem daunting at first, infusions are easy to learn and offer a world of possibilities with quick rewards. To begin, start experimenting with your booze of choice (straight spirits, not liqueurs) plus whatever herbs, flowers, fruits, or spices seem to marry with the spirit’s flavor profile. In order to tell when the infusion is just right — not too weak nor too strong or bitter — smell and taste frequently, daily or even hourly as the case may be.
To inspire you see the sampling of infusions below, as well as the drinks in which they are used. With these as a guideline, let your imagination soar.
Quick Little Pick Me Up with Coffee Bean-Infused Ramazotti
Created in Milan in 1815, Ramazzotti is a lesser-known amaro, flavored with bitter oranges, star anise, and cardamom. Coffee’s rich profile complements the bitterness of this digestif, adding further depth to an already complex sipper.
From: Jacob Grier, bartender, consultant, and author of the upcoming “Cocktails on Tap”
8 oz. Ramazzotti
10 grams Coffee beans
Preparation: Lightly muddle the coffee beans to crack (but not pulverize) them. Seal in a glass jar with Ramazzotti. Infuse for 24 hours, strain, and bottle. If you want to make more, just scale the recipe upward.
To Serve: To serve, pour two ounces in a glass with a big rock and express a lemon peel over the drink. Garnish with the peel.
Winter Cranberry Gimlet with Herb and Cranberry Infused Gin
Despite its inherent botanicals, gin is an eager partner for infusions, as long as the flavors are complementary with the gin’s profile. You could also try other fruits and herbs that would heighten the character of your chosen gin.
From: Rachel Mae Furman, bartender, SmokeandHoney.com
- 1 750-ml Bottle of Gin
- 4 Cups of Cranberries
- 2-3 Rosemary Sprigs
- 4-6 Sage Leaves
Preparation: Clean all ingredients, muddle cranberries to break them up, place all into large mason jar with the gin, let infuse for 2-5 days, then strain and refrigerate the final infused spirit.
For Cocktail Recipe:
- 2 oz. Infused Gin
- 1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup (1:1 Sugar & Water)
- Splash of Club Soda
Preparation: Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice, strain over new ice in a tumbler or high ball glass. Garnish with a toothpick of cranberries and/or a sprig of rosemary and sage leaf, top with club soda.
Añejo Old Fashioned with Apple and Clove-Infused Milagro Select Barrel Añejo
Also from Rachel Mae Furman, who notes, “this one is fun because it shows how to make Tequila seasonal for winter, when it’s usually thought of as a very summery spirit. I love using Añejo tequila in the winter in place of a bourbon or whiskey for tequila lovers.” This infused tequila could also be used for a Hot Toddy twist.
- 1 750-ml Bottle of Añejo Tequila (Milagro recommended)
- 2 Apples, Cut into Slices
- 3 Cloves
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
Preparation: Clean and slice apples, place all ingredients into large mason jar, let infuse for 2-5 days, then strain and refrigerate the final infused spirit.
For Cocktail Recipe:
- 2 1/2 oz. Infused Apple Cinnamon Clove Añejo Tequila
- 1/4 oz. Agave Syrup (1:1 Honey & Water)
- 2 Dashes Angustura Bitters
- Orange Peel
Preparation: Add all ingredients to glass, stir with large ice cube, garnish with an orange slice poked with 2-3 cloves for fragrance.